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Posted on: February 7, 2018

Frequently Asked Questions:
Improvements Announced for City’s Animal Services

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To further enhance Animal Shelter operations in alignment with strategic City policies and State law, City Manager Anthony J. Snipes has initiated additional measures for service improvements that were outlined for City Council Members at their Monday, Feb. 5 Regular Meeting.

In a staff presentation, Snipes informed officials of his direction to staff throughout the past three months to examine standard operating procedures, to review best practices and benchmarks through site visits of regional shelters, to evaluate operational partnerships, including those with volunteers, and to identify short- and long-term challenges and solutions. “The City is committed to providing excellent care to animals housed in the shelter, to partnering with volunteers in promoting adoptions to find homes for as many cats and dogs as possible and to being transparent with citizens and stakeholders about operations,” Snipes said. “Although the City has encountered challenges in this service area, I have made it clear to staff that moving forward, we will ensure that there are comprehensive policies and procedures in place for staff and volunteers to provide the best service possible.”

Snipes also noted that newly installed cameras have improved security overall for the shelter and that staff is integrating the new software solution—Shelter Manager—into daily operations. “I am confident in this new asset and know that the software will improve efficiencies going forth,” he said. The software is a secure, managed, online solution for animal shelters, rescue groups and animal control facilities and “offers tools to track and report on animals that pass through the custody of our organization, their welfare and medical requirements. It can also assist with the management of tasks for staff and volunteers.”

After his remarks, Mr. Snipes asked Public Works Director Shashi Kumar to present officials with a comprehensive overview of the ongoing measures he outlined, including work on:

  • A policy and procedures manual that will be finalized by the end of February;
  • Details of staff’s recent visits to other shelters in the region to learn about best practices and benchmarks;
  • The update of Municipal Volunteer Program policies and procedures;
  • A plan to administer training to shelter staff and volunteers;
  • A plan to establish a contract with a veterinary doctor to visit the shelter on a regular basis and for staff to care for animals at the shelter based on standard veterinary practices;
  • An analysis of cost implications to the Fiscal Year 2018 budget in the interim;
  • A review of staffing needs such as a Shelter Manager and/or a certified Veterinarian Technician (staff will look at both interim and long-term requirements); and
  • A review of the fiscal impact to the current year and future operating budgets.

“In addition to these proposed changes, City Manager Snipes has directed staff to supplement staffing in the Shelter with other City team members to ensure it is open to the public during business hours. This has been well-received by citizens and volunteers,” Kumar said.

Kumar also provided the following updates to Councilmembers:

  • Staff has been trained on the handling of drugs/medications by the Texas Department of State Health Services; See documentation of the instruction;
  • Staff is working to contract with a veterinarian to administer medications or to train Animal Control Officers on the procedures.

“In addition to these proactive steps, City staff is reviewing our schedule of fees to address the need for an increase for expenses such as adoptions. This would help the City achieve parity with regional municipalities and provide an increase in revenues for shelter operations,” Snipes said.

He also noted that, with the assistance of volunteers, homes were found for 174 cats and dogs in 2017. “Our intent is to continue the collaboration we have had with the volunteers in promoting adoptions and keeping the euthanasia rate low,” Snipes said.

In the same vein, beginning Tuesday, Feb. 6, Missouri City also relaunched its “Adoptable Pet of the Week” feature, with Oscar, a Shepherd mix, in need of a home. The pet profile was shared with area media and HOA partners and promoted through Missouri City’s citizen communications tools. Learn about Oscar.

The reviews of policies and procedures at the Missouri City Animal Shelter, involving multiple entities, is still under way. One entity, the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, has responded with a letter that outlines “several areas of concern that were discovered.” See full letter.

Law enforcement officers also still have possession of alleged controlled substances that were found in the shelter in December, 2017. Officials will continue to secure them while the reviews are ongoing.

In the meantime, officials want to assure citizens that the City remains dedicated to its mission of providing excellent customer service to members of this diverse community—including the City’s pet and animal populations.

***

To further address current resident and media inquiries about Animal Services and the City’s volunteer program, staff has updated the list of frequently asked questions in relation to these topics:


What is the City’s euthanasia rate for the past five years? 


20132014201520162017
Euthanized580562600369366
Total Shelter Intake8861159125510281140
Percentage Euthanized65%48%48%36%32%


I have been told that a city employee, one that works at the animal shelter, took medication from the shelter to Councilman Jerry Wyatt’s house to euthanize one of his animals. Is that true? 


This allegation is not true.


Are dogs and cats housed in the shelter receiving any kind of medication, and if not, why? 


When an animal enters the shelter, the pet is placed on a 72-hourhold. After that three-day period, animals are administered the Bordetella vaccine by Animal Control Officers. Afterward, heartworm testing is performed by a licensed veterinarian prior to any adoption (After the start of the current review, City staff began taking animals to the veterinarian for heartworm testing on or about Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018.) Animals that require care are being treated by veterinarians or veterinary technicians. 


There are reports that an injured dog came into the Animal Shelter on Jan. 17 with tags, a collar and a microchip. Allegedly, the dog did not receive pain medicine and its owners were not notified for a week. Is this the case; What does this tell you about the animal shelter? 


The City is aware of this serious matter and a staff review is under way. In alignment with Missouri City’s policies and values, Animal Services professionals are committed to providing the best shelter to pets housed in the facility. 


How much of a publicity nightmare is this issue regarding the volunteers, the City and the animal shelter?


The City has always been transparent regarding programs and services, and we value all input and feedback. Additionally, officials and staff have long been supportive of issues pertaining to pets and programs that contribute to animal initiatives. 


What activities are the volunteers performing now and based on the City review what activities will they be allowed to continue?


MVPs assist in day-to-day activities; such as walking the pets, socializing with dogs and cats to facilitate adoption, cleaning the shelter, laundry room activities and coordinating adoptions/rescues with outside entities.


What activities will the volunteers be denied to perform and how will the City plan to perform these duties?


Changes are forthcoming in the way both prescription and non-prescription medications are administered. This is based on input from the entities involved in the review process, benchmarking with other animal shelters in the area and consultation with a City Veterinarian.


What drugs or treatment(s) will the volunteers be allowed to provide to animals housed in the shelter? 


None at this time.  


For those drugs or treatment(s) that the volunteers are denied to administer or perform how will the City pay for these items and perform these duties?


In the interim, the City is having heartworm testing performed through a veterinarian. Interim funding measures, such as budget transfers, are being looked at to cover potential shortfalls. Long-term, additional funding authorization will be required by City Council.


How will we control and inventory any drugs purchased by volunteers or City staff?


Drugs purchased by volunteers are not allowed in the shelter.  City Animal Services Officers are purchasing needed medications and documenting them. Maintaining a running inventory of medications purchased will also be addressed in the standard operating plan, moving forward.


What is the City’s short-term plan to have staff at the Shelter to accommodate public and volunteer access? 


A City employee from the Street’s Division has been temporarily relocated to the Animal Shelter. The shelter door remains open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. 


What is the City’s long-term plan to have staff at the Shelter to accommodate public and volunteer access? 


The issue will be discussed in detail at upcoming City Council planning sessions and budget workshops.


Why is the City not allowing MVP participants’ full access to the Animal Shelter?  


As part of MVP policies and procedures, scheduled times are set for volunteers to arrive at the shelter to ensure efficient partnerships, day-to-day operations and security at the facility. Staff from adjoining facilities are also assisting Animal Services staff and will be on-site at the shelter with volunteers when employees must leave the building to go on service calls. 


Why is the City updating the volunteer program’s policies and procedures?


As part of staff’s Fiscal Year 2018 Business Plans, a review of the current volunteer program’s policies and procedures was launched. Staff have identified several updates to the program, including an annual recertification process, new training processes and rules and regulations related to volunteer supervision. Outside legal counsel has also been secured to review and provide essential feedback to this process to ensure that the needs of all City staff and volunteers are met across all departments andprograms. MVPs will receive further details on policy and procedure updates at the start of calendar year 2018 at the City’s second MVP Input Forum. 


What Animal Services are provided by the City?


The mission of Animal Control Services is to:
o    Assure that all proper vaccinations have been administered
o    Provide enforcement of municipal and state laws regarding animal control
o    Provide for the registration of all dogs and cats within the City
o    Provide temporary care and housing for impounded animals
o    Respond effectively and efficiently to all animal bite cases
o    Test for rabies when warranted


The division, in collaboration with community partners, cares for and attempts to find suitable homes for stray, abandoned and orphaned cats and dogs found in the community. If residents wish to adopt a pet, they may email the Animal Services Division or call 281.403.8707. Animal control officers will offer availability information to individuals and make an appointment for them to come to the shelter for viewing.  Residents may also complete an Adoption Form to bring home a new friend. Please call 281.403.8707 for more information.


How can residents become involved with Animal Services?


Missouri City’s dedication to citizen partnerships is one of the many ways that the “Show Me City” has been recognized as one of “America’s Best Places to Live” by CNN Money Magazine. In keeping with the City’s goal of community collaboration, staff launched a comprehensive and unified City-wide Municipal Volunteer Program (MVP) in 2014 that incorporates all departments and staff, including Animal Services. From special one-time event volunteers to ongoing partners, community partnerships have thrived under the umbrella of the citywide initiative. 

The mission of the MVP is to facilitate collaborations between departments and talented volunteers within the community. The program is a way for staff to continue to follow the values and missions set in place by the City Charter and City Council through the assistance of a wide variety of volunteer activities and projects.
Residents may learn more about the program and complete a Volunteer Application.


What issues were discussed by City Council and staff at the Dec. 4 Special Meeting?


In the Dec. 4 Special City Council Meeting, elected officials and staff provided an overview of Fiscal Year 2018 operations, including Animal Services, and acknowledged the importance of the Municipal Volunteer Program (MVP) and other citizen collaborations to all departments.


Key points discussed included:


1.  Current FY18 Budget priorities based on business plan requests and strategic initiatives:
·         Public Safety (Police, Fire, and Code Enforcement)
·         Review of Planning, Development and Permit Process
·         Infrastructure (Sidewalk, Drainage, Streets, etc.)
·         Internal and External Communications
·         City Hall Improvements
·         Employment Growth and Development
·         Emergency Preparedness Investment
·         Traffic and Congestion Management


2. Budget facts:
·         More than 45 percent of our City budget is spent on Public Safety.  The City’s investment covers practically all of our Property tax revenue received.
·         In FY18, 47 positions were requested from departments.  This represented $3,428,173 in position costs.  Of that number, only nine were approved ($540,897), while 38 were not. Of the 38 not approved were: 23 (Police), 2 (Fire), 2 (Human Resources), 1 (Parks), 2 (IT), 1 (Development Services), 4 (City Secretary and City Attorney), 1 (Public Works), 1 (Financial Services), 1 (Communications).
·         In FY18, departments requested supplemental and capital requests totaling $2,812,254.  A total of $1,510,079 were approved, while $963,479 were not approved.
·         Fleet requests totaled $1,014,670.  From that request, only $27,650 were approved based on available funding, while $924,429 was not approved.
·         In FY18, IT requests totaled $2,757,664.  From that request, only $955,378 was approved, while $1,613,000 was not approved.


3.  Unfunded Mandates
Unplanned expenditures that rise to a legal or legislative mandate include the following for FY18 that was not planned:
A.      Legislative Mandates: $30,000+ in loss revenues and required new expenditures
B.      Litigation & Settlements: Amounts that may exceed budget
C.      Hurricane Harvey Unplanned Expenses: $350,000 - $450,000


Stewardship of taxpayer funds is a top priority. The City continues to maintain a Fund Balance between 23 percent and 28 percent. In light of guidance from the rating agencies, the City has taken the position to maintain a fund balance of no less than three to four months of general fund operating expenditures. Higher minimum balances have been considered in cases of rapidly growing budgets, disparities in timing between revenue and expenditures and the possibility of natural disasters such as hurricanes. In order to make sure the City is making good strategic decisions and responding accordingly, staff ensures that any funding requests do not impact the organization’s stability and sustainability.


For updates, please watch the City website: www.missouricitytx.gov, like us on Facebook—fb/MissouriCityTX, follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat—@MissouriCityTX, and watch Missouri City Television (Ch. 16 on Comcast and Ch. 99 on AT&T U-verse).

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